What’s new in the recommended vaccination schedule?

Pregnant women are now advised to receive the tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine during each pregnancy to protect their newborns from whooping cough, according to the new vaccination guidelines for 2013 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics released earlier this week.

“We’ve seen more pertussis cases in 2012, than in several decades,” said Dr. H. Cody Meissner, a pediatrician from Tufts University School of Medicine who is also on the CDC's immunization committee.

Once the numbers come in, it’s estimated that there will be 35,000 to 40,000 cases of reported whooping cough in 2012. Of these, 20 deaths were of children, and most of them died in the first two to three months of life. It’s unclear why the numbers went up, but one reason could involve better reporting of the disease, Meissner said.

Babies are too young to receive the vaccine right away and do not receive their first Tdap shot until two months. They are not fully immune until their third shot at 6 months. The mother can pass along the immunity to her child until the baby can start responding to the Tdap vaccine.

It is recommended for each pregnancy during the late second or early third trimester because “the mother’s immunity wanes after she gets that boost,” he said.

For further protection, he also advises that all those around the baby such as the father, siblings, and grandparents to be up-to-date on vaccines to reduce the chance of spreading any disease.

Other recommendations include:

  • Parents can now see all the recommendations from birth to age 18 in one table. Previously, there were birth to 6 years, and 7 to 18 years schedules.
  • Infants ages 6 through 11 months who are traveling anywhere outside the United States should receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
  • Adults and children with a mild egg allergies can still get a flu shot. The vaccine contains such a small amount of egg protein that it’s unlikely to cause a reaction. Those who can eat cake and lightly cooked eggs probably would not have a reaction. Those who break out in hives could contact an allergist to administer the vaccine, Meissner said.

Lastly, Meissner emphasized the importance of following the schedule. “The current recommendations have been carefully studied and induces protective immunity...Vaccine protected diseases are at an all time low, but it does not mean the diseases have gone away,” he said.